I know, I know it’s highly unlikely that a 900-page book by a legal scholar could be anything but a yawn, but trust me-it has both its horrifying and hilarious moments.
I admit a fondness for the Rule of Law, mostly because I think it’s the best we can do. For that to work, of course, it has to be applied equally to all, rich and poor, weak and strong; otherwise it loses all meaning. In fact, the very first written laws, the Code of Hammurabi c. 1750 BC, says that its purpose is to “protect the weak from the strong.” We’re still working on that one, I guess.
For example, here is a jaw-dropping assertion: “If the inhabitants of the territory concerned are an uncivilized or extremely backward people, deemed to be incapable of possessing a right of sovereignty, the conqueror may, in fact, choose to ignore their title, and proceed to occupy the land as though it were vacant.”
“Uncivilized and extremely backward” according to whom? According to the conqueror? Does the conqueror have an itty bitty conflict of interest in making that determination, since they have obviously invaded and conquered that region for some purpose? And what might that purpose be? Did they just wander through with their army and notice, “Gee, these folks are uncivilized and extremely backward; we’d better take their land.”
And I may have laughed out loud at this one: Seems there was a coup in Cuba in 1933 and the U.S. sent a memo to world leaders that they had no intention, of course, of intervening in the affairs of a sovereign state. God forbid!
“simultaneously, numerous naval vessels, embracing the U.S.S. Mississippi, Indianapolis, and Richmond, were dispatched to Cuban waters.”
And I can picture the President of Mexico smirking sarcastically when he sent this reply:
“We very much appreciate…your Government’s assuring us the sending of ships does not mean intervention in Cuba.”
When it smells like BS but there is still some doubt that you are encountering bovine feces, apply the Flip-It Principle: If Cuba sent three military vessels to the U.S. would we think they were intervening in any way?
If Iraq decided America was being ruled by a dictator, could they bomb and invade America-you know to set the American people free? Is “International Law as applies to the U.S.” pretty much make-it-up-as-you-go-along? Might makes right?
I don’t think that’s a principle we want to establish, lest someday, somebody “does not” intervene as we “have not” intervened and justifies it by quoting our own legal precedents back at us.
*Flip-It Principle: How would we like it if someone did it to us?